Ailey 2: The Next Generation of Dance

Mixed bill of William Forsythe, Francesca Harper, Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey
Ailey 2 presented by Dance Consortium
Newcastle Theatre Royal

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The company in Revelations Credit: Nan Melville
The company in Freedom Series Credit: Erin Baiano
The company in Enemy in the Figure Credit: Erin Baiano
Ailey 2 Credit: Nan Melville

What a treat for dance lovers and those new to dance! Ailey 2—the second company of young dancers of world renowned Alvin Ailey Dance Company—is performing at Newcastle Theatre Royal, for only two days, performing an exciting quartet of varied modern dance.

The show opens with a long excerpt from William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure, created 1989, and what a smart, sassy and also touching, contemporary work this is!

Opening with a single dancer on one side of the stage, she faces a tight line of dancers on the other side. The movement is explosive, quite hard and dynamic and it takes us through a series of encounters, mostly in sharp ‘urban’ lighting on what looks like a light grey floor. The movements though ballet based are influenced by jazz, hip hop and Afro-jazz, so has a funky feel.

What make this such a fine and sensitive piece are the red lit sections where the mood changes. The first time this happens, we see a truly charismatic, slow moving, shifting, powerful female dancer. The contrasting sections from grey to red felt like urban to forest. Snazzily costumed by Forsythe himself and brilliantly relit by the company’s lighting designer Ethan Saiewitz with score by Thom Willems, Forsythe's long-time collaborator, it ends with the whole cast on stage in exuberant dance.

The next piece, Freedom Series, choreographed by Ailey 2’s Artistic Director Francesca Harper, also comprising sections, has a message of joy and support and sorrow. Harper says she was inspired by her emotional response when she took up the post of Ailey 2 artistic director returning to the Alvin Ailey family—she trained at The Ailey School where her mother Denise Jefferson was director.

It didn’t really seem to hold together and was more a suite of different, rather unconnected dances. However it ended on a joyful note, again gloriously danced, costumed by Elias Gurrola and lit by Abby May.

This was followed by Robert Battle’s The Hunt performed by a quartet of excellent men, clad in long black skirts, designed by Mia Mac Swain. A relentless, beat-driven score by Les Tambours du Bronx set the stage for a feat of endurance as the dancers psyched themselves up to hunt and kill (each other?). It was filled with very powerful and sometimes uncomfortable imagery and superbly lit by Burke Wilmore with floor patterns reminiscent of African art.

The final work, Revelations, is an absolute masterpiece of modern dance created in 1960 by the Founder Director of the main company, black American Alvin Ailey himself. It’s extraordinary to see this work performed to 10 traditional African American gospel songs; the purity of the movement, some of it deceptively simple always has clear intention, depicting sorrow, pain, fear, hope, cleansing by wading the water and ultimately joy in community and shared love. I’ve seen it many times and am moved and gripped every time. Ailey’s choreography is modern with jazz-dance influence and it’s a fabulous work.

A special mention to Kali Marie Oliver, Andrew Bryant who performed a superbly crafted, yearning duet to "Fix Me, Jesus". Costume and décor by Ves Harper, except for the finale "Rocka My Baby", where they were designed by Barbara Forbes, lighting Nicola Cernovitch

These young dancers didn’t disappoint, giving their all throughout and the audience loved them!

Whether you’re new to dance or a seasoned dance fan, you’ll be mesmerised; this is an assured, beautifully presented company of mostly black dancers with huge style and commitment.

Today, 25th, is your only chance in Newcastle before the company heads to Eden Court Theatre, Inverness October 27–28.

The tour is thanks to Dance Consortium, a network of venues who together bring international dance to the UK.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

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